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Your Practical Guide To Crime
Prevention – Personal Safety


Out and about

The chances of you or a member of your family becoming a victim
of violent crime are low. Violent crimes by strangers in public
places are still rare and account for a very small part of recorded

However, you can make yourself even less likely to be the victim
of a violent crime � for example, robbery (mugging) or assault �
by taking a few sensible precautions. Many are common sense, and may
be things you already do. Making yourself safer doesn’t mean
changing your entire lifestyle, personality or wardrobe, and it
doesn’t mean never going out at all.

And although there are different sections here for men and for
women, this doesn’t mean that personal safety is just for men or a
women’s issue. Men and women experience crime differently and it is
important to remember this so that you can protect yourself as well
as possible. You should find things of interest in both sections.

You should think about how you would act in different situations
before you are in them. Think about whether you would stay and
defend yourself (using reasonable force), risking further injury, or
whether you would give an attacker what they want, to avoid injury.
There is nothing wrong with doing either, but you should think about
the options � there will be no time to do so if you are attacked.

Some general points:

  • You will be safest in bright, well lit and busy areas.

  • Try to look and act confident � look like you know where
    you are going and walk tall.

  • You might like to spread your valuables around your body. For
    example, keep your phone in your bag, your house keys in your
    trouser pocket and your money in your jacket.

  • If someone tries to take something from you, it may just be
    better to let them take it rather than to get into a
    confrontation and risk injury.

  • You can use reasonable force in self-defence. You are allowed
    to protect yourself with something you are carrying anyway (for
    example, keys or a can of deodorant), but you may not carry a

  • If you decide to defend yourself, be aware that your attacker
    might be stronger than you, or may take what you are using in
    self-defence and use it against you. It is often better just to
    shout loudly and run away!

  • Shout ‘fire’ rather than ‘help’ � it can get more results.

  • If you use a wheelchair, keep your things beside you rather
    than at the back of the chair.

  • Try not to be conspicuous about the valuables you are
    carrying. Talking on your mobile phone, carrying a laptop, or
    showing your friend your new gold ring all show thieves that you
    are worth robbing.

  • When out walking or jogging, you should not listen to a
    personal stereo through headphones, so you can stay more alert
    to your surroundings.

For more information:

Phone the Suzy Lamplugh Trust information line on 020 8392 1839
or visit the Suzy Lamplugh
Trust website

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Personal safety: theft and robbery

Street robbery is generally known as mugging. It can also cover
snatching bags. Pickpocketing is slightly different, as you will not
be aware of the offence taking place. Robbery is more likely to take
place in quiet or dark areas, pickpocketing where it is busy, for
example, on a busy train in rush hour.

Young men are most likely to be the victims of robbery, and are
typically attacked by other young men.

If someone tries to take something from you by force, it may be
best to give it to them. This will help you avoid getting injured.

But you can take the following actions to reduce the effects of a
theft, if it happens to you:

Mobile phones

  • If your phone is stolen, report your number to your network
    and the police � the handset can now be barred on all networks
    and will be useless to thieves.

  • Register your phone with your network operator.

  • Record your registration number (IMEI) and your phone number.
    Keep these in a safe place separate from your phone. You can get
    your IMEI number (15-digit serial number) by keying *#06# into
    most phones or by looking behind your phone battery.

  • Report the number of your stolen phone to your network
    operator and the police as quickly as you can. It can now be
    cancelled immediately like a stolen credit card.

  • Stay alert � your phone is a valuable item. When you are
    out, be aware of your surroundings and don’t use your phone in
    crowded areas or where you might feel unsafe.

Credit cards

  • Keep your cards separate from your cheque books.

  • If your cards are stolen, call your bank or credit card
    company as soon as possible. Most banks put the number to call
    if your cards are stolen on your statement. They are also often
    shown on cash machines.

Following the general guidelines for personal safety will help
you avoid situations where people may rob you.

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Personal Safety: transport

This section offers some general tips on how to keep yourself
safe and secure when you’re making a journey � either catching a
bus or taxi, or when you’re in the car.

Public transport

As with everything, you are safest where there are other people,
and where it is light or well lit.

  • Plan your route.

  • Try to wait in busy or well-lit areas.

  • Sit near other people, the driver if you are on a bus, or
    near the conductor if you are on a train.

  • Move if someone makes you feel uncomfortable.


  • Keep your car in good condition and try not to run out of

  • Keep doors locked when driving and keep bags, phones and
    other valuables out of sight, preferably in the boot.

  • Try to park in well lit or busy areas, and if you park during
    the day, think about what the area will feel like after dark.

  • Some car parks have ‘Secured car park’ accreditation. Find
    out which ones do locally and try to use them � look out for
    the ‘Secured car park’ sign or visit

  • If you break down on the motorway, follow the arrows to the
    nearest phone. Do not cross the carriageway. Wait outside your
    car (as far away as possible from the carriageway) unless you
    feel threatened, in which case you should sit in the passenger

  • Do not give lifts to or accept lifts with people you do not
    know, or do not know well.

  • Do not drive if you have been drinking or taking drugs, and
    do not take a lift from someone who has.

  • You may feel more comfortable carrying a mobile phone with
    you. Try to keep it out of sight, and do not use it while

See also the advice on car-jacking.

Taxis and private hire vehicles

  • If you are going to be out late or don’t want to travel on
    public transport on your own, try to arrange a lift home with
    someone you know or make your journey by taxi or private hire
    vehicle (PHV, sometimes called a minicab).

  • Taxis and PHVs give you a degree of protection because
    vehicles and drivers must meet suitability criteria, including
    local minimum standards for vehicles and a criminal record and
    health checks for drivers, before they are licensed by your
    local council (district/borough council, unitary authority or
    Transport for London).

  • You can hail a taxi on the street or at a rank as well as
    pre-booking it but you can only pre-book a PHV through a
    licensed PHV operator (not a PHV driver).

  • You should always ensure that you travel in a licensed taxi
    and PHV by checking the vehicle’s signage or plate and the
    driver’s badge. You should never agree to travel in an
    unlicensed vehicle with an unlicensed driver.

  • Check that the taxi or PHV that arrives is the one you
    ordered. Ask for a description of the car – colour, make, etc –
    and check this when it arrives. You could also ask for the name
    of the driver beforehand.

  • If you pre-book your taxi or PHV, make a note of the company
    you are using, and the telephone number, and if possible leave
    it with a friend.

  • When you get to your destination, ask the driver to wait
    until you are inside.

  • If you are approached by someone in the street offering (ie
    touting for) a taxi or PHV journey, ignore them. Touting is an
    offence. Indeed, it has recently been made recordable so that
    fingerprinting and DNA tests can be made on offenders.

  • If travelling alone, always sit behind the driver in the back

  • If you feel uneasy, ask to be let out in a well-lit area
    where there are plenty of people.

  • If in any doubt, make an excuse and don’t get in the vehicle.

  • The security of drivers is important too. Safety and security
    aids will range from a simple Perspex screen between the driver
    and passenger of a saloon car to sophisticated CCTV equipment.

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Personal safety: women

Everyone has the right to live free of unwanted attention,
harassment and abuse. You have this right, whoever you are, whatever
your race, background, religion or sexuality, however you dress or

No one has the right to interfere with this, whether they are
strangers, colleagues, friends, acquaintances or family.

Minor sexual assault

This is more likely to happen in crowded places. It includes
being touched or rubbed against.

It can be hard to know who is doing this, so it is often easier
to move away, if this is possible. Try to move to where there are
other women.

If you feel confident to do so, a stern ‘take your hands off me’
may make the person stop. This will also alert other people to their

Sexual assault and rape

Despite popular beliefs, rape by a stranger is very uncommon.

Sexual assault and rape are more likely to happen in less busy
areas. You can reduce the risk of this type of attack by following
the general guidance earlier in this section.

If you are attacked, you must decide whether to defend yourself,
which may put you at risk of further injury. Or it may not be
possible to defend yourself.

Either way, you did not ask to be raped. It is not your fault.
You did not deserve it.

If you have been raped, you may or may not want to report it to
the police, or to see a nurse or counsellor.

  • See the advice on domestic violence for more information
    about abuse within a relationship.

  • See the advice on ‘date rape’.

  • Also see the advice on hate crime.

The police are specially trained to work with women who have been
sexually assaulted. You will be able to talk to a female police
officer, and to a female doctor or nurse if you go to hospital.

If you want to report the crime straightaway, whether you get
medical help or go straight to the police, try not to wash or change
your clothes. If you want to report the crime at a later date, this
is okay too.

If you know someone who has been raped, try to be supportive, but
do not be judgemental. It is up to them what they do now.

For more information:

Phone Rape Crisis on 0115 900 3560 or visit
the Rape Crisis website

Phone the Victim Supportline on 0845 303 0900 or visit
the Victim Support website

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Personal safety: men

While women are most at risk from men on their own, men are more
at risk from groups of men. Most commonly, young men are attacked by
groups of other young men.

You can reduce the risk by following the general guidance � for
example, trying to stay in well-lit or busy areas.

Another way to avoid violence is to stop a confrontational
situation turning into an aggressive one. Think about how you react
when you get angry. If you feel yourself getting angry with someone,
or if they get angry with you, try to move away.

It takes a brave man to back down from a fight.

If you have been attacked, you may want to go to the police, or
to a doctor. The doctor may also ask you what has happened, but if
you don’t want to tell them, you don’t have to.

See the advice on hate crime and the
advice on alcohol

Sexual Assault

Women are not the only victims of sexual assaults. Men are also
sexually assaulted, or experience violent relationships in their
lives. If you or a friend are a victim of sexual assault or domestic
violence, follow the information given in the sections on sexual
assault and domestic violence.

Your actions towards women

A lot of women’s fear of crime comes from men’s actions. You can
help this by thinking about what you and your friends do. For

  • don’t strike up conversations with women on their own;

  • try not to walk too close behind�they may think you are
    following them;

  • respect women’s personal space;

  • don’t make comments about women who walk past; and

  • remember that ‘no’ means ‘no’.

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Personal safety: hate crime

Hate crimes are directed against people because of some aspect of
who they are, most typically because they are from an ethnic
minority or visible religious minority, or because of their

Hate crime covers a wide range of behaviour, for example verbal
abuse, racist or homophobic graffiti or physical assault. A crime
can be classed as a hate crime if the victim or witness see it as
being so.

If you are the victim of what you think is a hate crime, it is
not your fault. You have the right to live your life free from abuse
and violence, whoever you are. You do not have to live with hate

Police are trained to deal with hate crime with sensitivity and
tact. They will not treat you differently because you are from an
ethnic or religious minority, or because of your sexuality. A lot of
police forces also provide self-referral forms, so you can report a
crime without having to deal directly with the police.

For more information:

If you have been a victim of a racist and religiously-motivated
hate crime, contact:

  • your local police;

  • local race equality councils or voluntary groups; or

  • the Commission for Racial Equality at

If you have been a victim of a homophobic hate crime, contact:



Last update:  4 January 2005

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